Liner Notes: Kansas City Standard Time- Tim Whitmer
by Chuck Haddix
Like Lerner and Lowe's Brigadoon, the mist shrouded mythical hamlet celebrated in legend but seldom revealed, the phantom of Kansas City jazz style is rarely manifested. Tim Whitmer armed with talent to match his deep understanding and appreciation of the tradition spawned by Count Basie, Mary Lou WIIiams, Jay McShann and a host of other jazz luminaries, succeeds in capturing the elusive spirit of Kansas City jazz with his new release, Kansas City Standard Time.
Charming audiences nightly in his club, the Phoenix Piano Bar & Grill at 8th and Central in the heart of downtown Kansas City, MO, Whitmer carries on and expands the tradition of Kansas City jazz with his inventive treatment of standards and fanciful original compositions. Classically trained, Whitmer followed the siren's call of jazz, after studying at the Conservatory of Music at the University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC) with George Salisbury, a brilliant harmonically advanced pianist, who studied with Mary Lou Williams. Since then, Whitmer has led a series of renowned bands, drawn from local jazz legends and talented young players. Whitmer brings together these elements, an abiding respect for the tradition, enhanced by his own distinctive compositions magnificently rendered by a group of talented and experienced musicians for Kansas City Standard Time.
Whitmer's assured two-fisted piano leads the band through "Player Piano," a frisky tribute to the stride tradition. Vivacious Myra Taylor, who first burst on the national scene as a vocalist with Harlan Leonard's Rockets in the early 1940s, takes charge of the tribute to guitarist Sonny Kenner, "Sunny Side of the Street." Still in her salad days, Taylor flexes her considerable vocal range, moving effortlessly from a charming nod to Louis Armstrong to a near glass shattering climax.
A Whitmer original in the modern mode, "On the Water's Edge," switches the mood, showcasing a playful dialogue between Whitmer's buoyant piano and Jim Mair's soaring soprano saxophone. After beautifully stating the theme of the ballad "My Romance," Whitmer picks up the tempo, moving brightly through the standard, ably supported by Lucky Wesley's strong walking bass line and drummer Jurgen Welge's rhythmically textured brush strokes.
The genial Rusty Tucker, a veteran of the Nat Towles and Paul Banks territorial bands, joins Tim for a tender reading of Louis Armstrong's wistful observation "What A Wonderful World." Jim Mair's soprano saxophone obligato accompaniment provides a perfect foil for Tucker's deeply felt vocals. Whitmer kicks off the Kansas City evergreen, "Moten Swing" with a Basie style coda, leading to a masterfully burnished tenor saxophone solo by the impish Arthur Jackson, a former band member of Charlie Parker in the Deans of Swing.
Borrowing a page from the Basie band at the Reno Club, "Brookside Boogie" evokes the pure Kansas City style, distinguished by the call and response between Whitmer's barrelhouse piano and the riffing section featuring Mair on alto saxophone, Jeff Hamer's trombone and Steve Molloy on trumpet, Whitmer accentuates the ethereal mood of "Over the Rainbow" by highlighting space with pensive chords blending minor and major keys to create a fitting tribute to trumpeter Pat Morrissey, a dear friend and long time musical co-conspirator.
Two stalwarts from the 1960s follow. Inspired by Whitmer's soulful introduction, Jim Mair answers with a stirring alto solo, summoning the righteous spirit of Horace Silver's "The Preacher." Chico Battaglia's muscular percussion work propels the rhythm section through "Samba de Orfeo," the main theme from the motion picture Black Orpheus. Whitmer's percussive piano technique highlights the lively mood of the carnival standard.
Taking a solo turn, Whitmer pays tribute to his beloved grandmother with the lilting waltz, "Dancing with Theresa," musically reflecting her proud Sicilian heritage. Myra Taylor and Rusty Tucker return to wrap things up in a grand style with "When the Saints Go Marching In." Jurgen Welge and bassist James Albright set the street parade mood with a steady second-line groove, leading to an exuberant exchange between Tucker and Taylor, accented by pure gutbucket solos featuring Mair, Hamer and Molloy.
Together with the stellar production talents of James Albright, Whitmer and company create a timeless classic in Kansas City Standard Time.
A sound archivist, radio producer and writer, Haddix is the director of the Marr Sound Archives at UMKC and host of the "Fish Fry," a public radio party aired Friday and Saturday nights on KCUR FM, 89.3. His articles have appeared in Living Blues and Down Beat magazines.
Engneered, mixed and mastered:
Airborne Audio Productions, Kansas City
Willoughby Design Group
Special thanks to all who all the musicians, the great folks at Airborne, epecially the "Don," James, Jim, Jurgen, Chuck, my family, everyone at the Phoenix, my wonderful BC/BP Lou, my best friend Pat and "my romance" Pattie. External gratitude to my parents and grandparents for providing love, support, and piano lessons. Praise God from whom all blessing flow.
For more information, bookings and other recording contact: Tim Whitmer Productions, PO Box 30332, Kansas City, MO 64112. Phone 816-444-6262, email: